The 3 Stages of DUI and DUI Defense in North Dakota
This guide will explain how the typical DUI case evolves, the criminal process, and some defense pointers from former police officer and prosecutor turned DUI defense attorney Chris Redmann
Being Arrested for DUIMost DUI arrests are the product of a police traffic stop. Police need "reasonable suspicion" of a violation to stop or detain you; even the smallest violation will allow the police to stop you. For example, around "bar close" many officers in Bismarck, Mandan, and Fargo will stop vehicles in downtown areas for having an inoperable license plate light, making an improper turn, or not signalling 100' prior to turning at an intersection. These stops are known as "pre-text" stops because the officer is using the underlying minor traffic violation as a pre-text to conduct a DUI investigation. As long as the stop is not based on being a protected class, pre-text stops have generally been upheld by the courts as legal. Once stopped, there are some general things you should know. First you have to provide your license, registration, and insurance card if requested. You also have to exit the vehicle if requested. Be aware that an aggressive officer looking for DUI drivers will be looking for the following indicators to extend the "stop" to a full blown DUI investigation: driving behavior, odor of alcohol, extreme nervousness, fumbling with license, bloodshot or watery eyes, slurred speech, etc. The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests: the officer will likely ask you to take these sobriety tests. Bismarck, Mandan, and Fargo police officers are trained to ask for consent to take these tests in a leading manner. For example, "Sir, you haven't been drinking tonight, right?" "And you feel like your okay to drive, true?" "Great, you don't mind taking a few quick tests to prove that then, do you?" Drivers feel obligated to do these tests, but in fact there is no obligation to take the SFSTs. The main sobriety tests are the Horiztonal Gaze Nystagmus (eye test), Walk and Turn, and One Leg Stand. Officers will occassionally ask for a counting, alphabet, or finger dexterity test. Contrary to popular rumor, you will not be asked to say the alphabet backwards. You can refuse these tests. Remember the police are investigating you for a crime; do you want to help them? If the police suspect you are DUI, they will advise you of the North Dakota Implied Consent Advisory. This piece of legislation indicates that by driving a car you have in fact consented to a breath, blood, or urine test to determine your BAC unless you expressly refuse. You'll then be asked to submit to an "on site screening test." This test is not admissible at a criminal trial, but refusing to take this test (which is usually a quick breath test) can result in being charged with the crime of "refusal" which is criminally punished in North Dakota to the same extent as a DUI and carries with it enhanced penalties for DOT license suspensions. If you register above a .08 on the "on site screening test" you'll likely be arrested for DUI. You'll be advised of the North Dakota Implied Consent Advisory again and asked to take a Chemical Test; this will be a blood, breath, or urine test. Again, contrary to popular belief, it is entirely the officer's decision which test he offers; you cannot and do not get to choose. You can however ask for an independent test but you will be required to pay for it. If you refuse to take the chemical test, you again can be charged with "refusal," as outlined above. If you take the test, it will likely occur at the jail facility. If it's a breath test, you'll be given the results immediately and issued a report and notice outlining information for the DOT suspensions that come with a result above .08 BAC. If you take a blood test, the report and notice will get mailed to you later. Of particular note, before you take the test, you have a right to a "reasonable period of time" to consult with an attorney. After the test, you'll be processed and booked in. You'll likely be able to post bond. Depending on any prior DUIs you may have, most local jails will allow you to post a bond around $500 for a first offense DUI. A 4th offense DUI in lifetime (with some exceptions) is considered a felony with a likely requirement that you see a judge before being assigned a bond. It's imperative to involve your attorney immediately to advocate on your behalf and preserve the best possible DUI defense.
Being Charged with DUIDUI laws in North Dakota are very serious and get progressively more serious with each prior offense someone has. A chart with DUI sentencing can be found here (http://www.redmannlawpc.com/dui--dwi.html). In addition to the very serious criminal penalties that are mandatory in North Dakota DUI cases, there are substantial license suspensions that also are imposed. To many clients, the license suspensions are often the most severe consequence of getting a DUI because there just aren't readily available public transportation systems in the Bismarck, Mandan, and western North Dakota areas; not having a license is a huge issue. Depending on prior offenses and blood alcohol content, individuals will become eligible for a temporary restricted license, often referred to as a "work permit." Under the new DUI legislation, there are two types of work permits. First is the 24/7 work permit and the second is the more traditional work permit not requiring continual alcohol testing. Periods of eligibility vary for each of the permits. There are also specific pieces of legal advice that Redmann Law provides its clients who are on a work permit to mitigate potential problems. In addition to criminal penalties and license suspensions, there are a host of other ramifications or potential consequences to getting a DUI in North Dakota. They range from having to obtain SR-22 insurance, to years of 24/7 alcohol testing, to vehicle forfeiture ... among other consequences. In most cases, only individuals with a first offense DUI who have a BAC below .16 can avoid the 24/7 program. The 24/7 program is administered by each county jail and comes in two typical varieties. Traditional 24/7 testing mandates twice per day breath testing usually once in the morning and once in the evening. In addition to being a large inconvenience for most people, there is an expense associated with the program. Usually there is a start up expense of around $30 and a $1 per test fee. The alternative is referred to as the SCRAM bracelet. This is actually an "anklet" and in addition to the approximately $100 activation/deactivation fee it typically costs about $5/day. There are also potential issues some clients face if they deal with certain chemicals in the course of their jobs such as beauticians, hair dressers, or others dealing with strong chemicals. Because of the convenience with SCRAM, some local counties such as Burleigh, Morton, Stark, and McLean Counties have occasional backlogs and waiting lists to get on the SCRAM program. Most judges in the area will leave it up to the sheriff's department as to whether or not SCRAM is approved for any given individual.
Beginning a DUI DefenseSuccessful DUI defense combines knowledge, experience, negotiation skills, and advocacy from your DUI attorney. Although each case is unique, and results cannot be guaranteed, some clients of Redmann Law, P.C. have had their DUI charges dismissed, charges reduced, jail time modified to community service, etc. DUI Attorney Chris Redmann personally handles all the DUI cases at Redmann Law, P.C. Because he's arrested DUI drivers, prosecuted DUI offenders, and now defends each client accused of DUI, he is able to bring an incredible perspective and knowledge base to each case. He is aware of the shortcuts and deficiencies that sometimes occur by the arresting officer and the oversights which can occur by the prosecutor's office when dealing with "just another DUI." It's important to get a DUI attorney involved immediately in your defense because many opportunities can be waived by the unassuming prospective-client by failing to meet very tight deadlines; missing these deadlines may mean the difference between keeping your license or losing it, and having the best DUI defense options available or waiving them. Some of the issues that you'll want to look for in your case relate to: Adequacy of the stop, Proficiency of the officer's administration of the standardized field sobriety tests; Procedure for the implied consent and arrest; Any custodial statements in absence of Miranda; Adequacy of the DOT Report and Notice; Proper procedure for the breath or blood test; Any constructive denial of counsel; Timeliness of the chemical test in relation to the time of driving; Sufficiency of the charging document; Disclosure of proper foundational documents to support the chemical test; Officer credibility issues; And many more. **This guide is for general informational purposes only and does not create and attorney/client relationship. Contact an attorney to discuss specific facts regarding your case.